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Chicago's Experimental Station has a farmers market, a bike shop, and 3 dynamic journalism projects. We think they need a coffee shop.
Chicago's Experimental Station has a farmers market, a bike shop, and 3 dynamic journalism projects. We think they need a coffee shop.
236 backers pledged $16,763 to help bring this project to life.

About

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$16,763

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[Update: We're wide-eyed and grateful at the support so far, and we've got until Sunday at Midnight to hit our stretch goal of $18,000! Check our updates for more info. By request, we've also set up our beautiful Ellie Mejía-designed tote and mug as add-ons; scroll to bottom for info on adding those to an existing pledge.]

We want to build a coffee shop within the Experimental Station, a non-profit center on the border of Hyde Park and Woodlawn at 61st and Blackstone.

The Experimental Station, at 61st & Blackstone on Chicago's South Side
The Experimental Station, at 61st & Blackstone on Chicago's South Side

We’re forging a shop for artists and activists and journalists, everybody from kids at the elementary school next door to neighbors in the surrounding blocks to grad students just north. But we need you. Here's the pitch:

The Landlord

The idea for this shop was born from the space it’ll be housed in. The Experimental Station is a non-profit whose two-story brick building you may have already encountered from one angle or another. Their 61st Street farmers market draws over a thousand people from Hyde Park, Woodlawn, and beyond.

For the past couple months, we've been serving up cold brew at the farmers market [Photo: Alex Jung]
For the past couple months, we've been serving up cold brew at the farmers market [Photo: Alex Jung]

The Experimental Station is itself a non-profit, but their building also acts as a home for a great slate of tenants. Our neighbors within the building include bikeshop/mentoring program Blackstone Bikes and three of the most exciting journalism projects in the city: the Invisible Institute, City Bureau, and the South Side Weekly. At any given hour of any given day, there’s somebody working hard and making good things.

The Gap

Right now, to most people most of the time, the Experimental Station is a locked door. There’s lots of space for folks already working within the building to collaborate, but there’s no central hub that’s open to the public: no space to meet up, hold an interview, or swing by for a cup of coffee. The blocks surrounding 61st and Blackstone are full of students, families, and professionals—a community that already supports a thriving weekly farmers market, and one that we think could use a great coffee shop. That’s where we come in.

The Setup

Build’s anchor is great coffee. Our roaster, HalfWit, is small like us but growing fast, and they’re serious about their beans. Like we do, they think coffee should be thoughtfully sourced, roasted and brewed with love and skill, and served without pretension. Also: it's delicious.

A glamour shot of one of HalfWit's roasts
A glamour shot of one of HalfWit's roasts

We’ll also have a wide tea selection, decaf for those who insist, and a sweet S’mores Hot Chocolate we’re already experimenting on.

Our food menu will be simple, fresh, and nourishing. We’ll source year-round from the 61st St. Farmers Market right outside our doors, and from local folks as serious about their croissants as we are about our coffee.

What else?

The northern wall of the shop will act as a hybrid library/miniature bookstore. We’ll offer a carefully curated selection of much-loved used books and magazines, small press publications, and locally focused lit. We already have a full collection of Believer Magazine for browsing, and 500+ other books ready for a home on our shelves (and someday yours).

The beginnings of our collection [Photo: Avery LaFlamme]
The beginnings of our collection [Photo: Avery LaFlamme]

Build will also be a small venue for screenings, local and touring bands, and workshops. Bea, our booker, will be working to pull in cool gigs and open the space up to anybody who has a great idea for it. 

The Ask

We’ve spent the last year crafting plans, getting feedback, and begging, borrowing, and stealing (minimal stealing) to put together almost all the funds we need to get a coffee shop off the ground. But we want to do this right.

Your $12,000 helps finish out the physical end, buys inventory as we grow a base of regulars, and means we can afford to hire a small but mighty staff and pay them a fair wage.

We’ve designed our rewards to showcase everything we’re hoping the shop can provide: all the things that we’ll be able to do for years to come if we close our funding gap.

Our cold brew coffee subscription, yours with a $40 pledge [Photo: Alex Jung]
Our cold brew coffee subscription, yours with a $40 pledge [Photo: Alex Jung]

Our ears and inboxes are always open to questions; get in touch at info@buildcoffee.org. We think this will be an amazing space, and that it will only get better as it ages. We want you in it with us from day one.

[Add Ons] If you're looking to add an additional tote ($40) or mug ($25) to an existing pledge, just up your pledge by the above amounts—we'll cover the extra shipping! <3

Risks and challenges

With any small business, there are questions of viability. Will people come? And is the business structured to be profitable and sustainable when they do?

The second question is one we’ve spent this past year working on: breaking down everything from menu to staffing structure to construct a sustainable space. We've also spent the summer running a miniature version of the shop, a farmers market stand where we've been able to meet our neighbors and introduce them to Build.

As for the first question, we're optimistic. We’ll be the closest independent coffee shop for a solid 1,500 people in the blocks west of the Metra tracks and south of the University of Chicago. With an exuberant newspaper/postcard/social media campaign and your help, we’re going to make sure all of them know we’re here.

Our business is small, young, and nimble. We’ve carefully budgeted for a winter’s worth of funding to get us off the ground. We’re tracking every aspect of our shop, and if something’s not working, we’ll change it. This project is going to mean a lot of late nights and early mornings, and we’re ready for both.

We also have a vast amount of faith in you, a community of people who are already invested. We promise to build something so good that it’s worth coming back to again and again. We hope you’ll tell your friends.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Kind Stranger

    Thank you! You've got a good soul and a great face, we can tell. Come by for any drink, any size. Plus a very well-executed high five, real or imagined.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Mug Bud

    A beautiful mug, selected for perfect hand/cup dynamic and inscribed with our artist-friend-designed logo.

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    87 backers
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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $30 or more About $30

    Breakfast Clubber

    For one Sunday morning only, Build becomes a Breakfast Club. Think Farmers Market bounty + bottomless coffee, egg sandwiches, and blueberry muffins the size of your face. We'll be playing Saturday morning cartoons a day late and basking in the sun. Your donation secures a spot and a crack at the Sunday crossword.

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    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    Nester

    A set of five coasters, made of upcycled wood and laser-engraved with our logo. Classy, indestructible, super small-batch, and fit for any table. *Plus* we'll throw in one cup of drip per coaster, to be redeemed at the shop.

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    Reward no longer available 10 backers
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $40 or more About $40

    Traveler

    We searched high and low for a tote as great as our coffee, and we found it. Made in New Hampshire, these sturdy, all natural cotton totes are emblazoned with our logo, which gets cooler every day.

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    15 backers
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $60 or more About $60

    Cold Brewed Killer

    A five week subscription to our popular Cold Brew program. Pick up a quart jar of concentrate once a week—double it with water or add straight to milk. So sweet and so cold. Start it this fall, or hold off till spring!

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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $85 or more About $85

    Librarian

    Build will carry a tight selection of curated used books and small press offerings from the best independent publishers in the Midwest. For you, a year of free books—come in and pick one a month. (Occasional exclusions apply.)

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    Limited 4 backers
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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Far Flung Friend

    We wish you were here! In the meantime, here's all the swag we've got. We'll send over our traveler tote, very good mug, and woodburned coaster set, so you can rep the shop wherever you are.

    Includes:
    • Limited edition mug
    • Traveler tote
    • Woodburned coaster set
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  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Scholar

    A one-on-one home brew lesson from our roaster, HalfWit. They'll provide counsel from a master barista on your method of choice, light brew theory, and a bag of coffee to get you started. We'll throw in our sturdy tote to make sure you look as smart as you are.

    Includes:
    • Traveler tote
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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Regular

    We're not great with faces and terrible with names, but we promise to learn yours or die trying. Come in for a free drink a week for our first year. Any drink, any size, every week. Plus, we'll throw in our custom, limited edition mug.

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    6 backers
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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    Critic

    Build will host screenings all year long, but one of them could be all yours. Rent our space for a night to project anything you like. Just bring yourself and up to twenty friends—we'll supply the film, popcorn, snacks, and beverages.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Founder

    500x thanks. We considered offering to tattoo your name on our proprietor, but chose the shop instead (bigger canvas). To recognize your contribution, we'll dedicate a brick on one of our rough and tumble walls. We'll also send a tote, mug, and coaster set, all imbued with endless gratitude.

    Includes:
    • Limited edition mug
    • Traveler tote
    • Woodburned coaster set
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  13. Select this reward

    Pledge $750 or more About $750

    Designer

    Design your perfect special, AND drink it free for a year. You name it, remembering that with great power comes great responsibility. Please buy this so Hannah's father doesn't make us call one "Thanks, Dad."

    Includes:
    • A year's supply of your custom drink!
    • Limited edition mug
    • Traveler tote
    • Woodburned coaster set
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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Lifer

    Looking for an LTR? We'll promise a cup of drip every day, perpetually. We'll also dedicate a founder brick to you, and send all the swag we've got: our traveler tote, limited edition mug, and wood-burned coaster set.

    Includes:
    • Limited edition mug
    • Traveler tote
    • Woodburned coaster set
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Funding period

- (31 days)